School of Geography

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Kean Fan Lim

Assistant Professor in Economic Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences



Kean Fan Lim is an economic geographer by training. He is primarily interested in the extent to which industrial, social welfare and financial policies introduced within particular city-regions generate new developmental paths at the national scale. Kean's current research project explores the connections between state rescaling, policy experimentation and economic-geographical transformations in China, while he has a longstanding interest in how socioeconomic policies affect the global positioning of Hong Kong and Singapore. Kean's research has been published in leading geographical journals as well as broader interdisciplinary domains.

Research Summary

Kean's current research is an extension of work conducted for his PhD dissertation at the University of British Columbia. The multi-sited project problematizes the prevalent claim that a… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

Kean's current research is an extension of work conducted for his PhD dissertation at the University of British Columbia. The multi-sited project problematizes the prevalent claim that a unidirectional, epochal change has occurred in the Chinese political economy after 1978. It emphasizes instead a much more deeply sedimented, path-dependent pattern of development that is marked by significant (and enduring) forms of uneven economic-geographical development.

Half of the project comprises geographical-historical analysis of the extent to which regulatory logics of Mao Zedong era persist in the present, while the other half draws on field research on contemporary policy experimentation in "nationally strategic new areas" in Chongqing (in interior China) and the Pearl River Delta (southeastern China, adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau) to examine whether transformative change is possible. Work drawn from the project were awarded Best Essay Awards by the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Political Geography Specialty Group (New York, 2012) and Economic Geography Specialty Group (Tampa, 2014). The project was the recipient of the AAG Economic Geography Specialty Group Graduate Research Award (Los Angeles, 2013).

Findings have been published in the journals Progress in Human Geography (2014), Economy & Society (2014), Territory, Politics, Governance (2016) and New Political Economy (2016). Kean is revising the project into a monograph for the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Book Series (contracted by Wiley-Blackwell).

Future Research

Building on his longer-term goal of obtaining a multi-scalar conceptualization of China's developmental approach and, specifically, the implications of policy experimentation in cities categorized as "nationally strategic", Kean will develop two new research lines in the School.

First, extending current research on global production networks, he aims to explain the emergence of state-driven strategic coupling with transnational capital through large-scale infrastructural projects. Specific focus is given to the rationale and impacts the Europe-China Railway on shifting production networks across Eurasia. The project is funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (September 2016 to December 2017).

Second, developing work by financial geographers, Kean aims to ascertain and conceptualize the geographical preconditions of the internationalization of the Chinese currency - the renminbi (RMB). The goal is to understand how global offshore RMB financial hubs connect with selected geographies within the Chinese mainland to drive the internationalization process.

In addition to research in China, Kean will examine how the governments of Hong Kong and Singapore are responding to challenges posed simultaneously by an increasingly volatile global economy and growing social demands for enhanced livability. These two key global city-states in East Asia offer excellent platforms to understand the socio-political conditions necessary for global cities to reproduce their competitiveness within the broader system of capitalism. Part of this work has been published and will be included in a co-authored monograph on the 'China model' (with Niv Horesh, contracted by Routledge).

Interwoven across these research foci - all of which will run concurrently - is an overarching concern with how socio-spatial conditions are generated and justified by state-linked actors as necessary for capital accumulation.

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